Apple 2010: The Highs and the Lows

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Having already reflected on Microsoft's 2010, it seems reasonable to also take a look back at what Apple's year had to offer. Looking behind the curtain of Apple "magic" and Jobsian reality distortion fields, Apple had some major triumphs, and a couple hiccups that defined 2010.

The Highs

The iPad created a tablet market where there was none, and now it dominates that market.
iPad. Apple defied the naysayers and exceeded expectations with the iPad tablet. Creating a gadget with no identifiable market can be risky, but somehow Apple managed to straddle the line between mobile gadget and portable computer, and create a new market that rivals are now stampeding to try and snag a share of. iPad production can barely keep up with demand. The Apple tablet has been a hot gift item for the holidays, and many IT departments are looking at ways to capitalize on the strengths of the iPad as a mobile business tool.

iPhone 4. Apple introduces a new generation of iPhone each year within a fairly predictable annual window. This year, though, the changes to the Apple smartphone were more than incremental. A complete redesign included front and rear-facing cameras, the introduction of FaceTime video chat and the Retina display that exceeds the capabilities of the human eye.

iOS 4. Hand in hand with the iPhone 4 came the latest update to the iOS operating system it--as well as the iPod Touch and iPad--runs on. iOS 4 introduced a variety of features that users have been longing for such as the ability to group apps into folders, a unified Inbox for e-mail, and some sense of multitasking to enable apps to continue running in the background.

MacBook Air. The MacBook Air has always been sort a niche luxury. Its thin form factor lightweight were not enough to justify the higher price and limited performance compared with traditional MacBooks or Windows-based notebooks. With the new MacBook Air, though, Apple broke new ground on just how thin a laptop can get--yet still managed to beef up its specs, and lower its price all at the same time.

The Lows

iPhone 4. As exciting as the launch of the iPhone 4 was, it was accompanied by some uncharacteristic engineering flaws--at least for Apple, and some horrendous customer support. The infamous "antenna-gate" problem led Apple to implement a program to issue cases for iPhone 4 users, and users also experienced a variety of other issues including problems with the proximity sensor that could lead to embarrassing situations mid-call. As 2010 winds down, it seems the bugs have been more or less worked out, but Steve Jobs and Apple spoke with a hint of disdain for users when addressing the issue, and seemed to only reluctantly deal with the matter to shut up disgruntled users.

White iPhone 4. Where is it? I am not sure why there needs to be a black and a white iPhone 4, but Apple led everyone to believe that a white iPhone4 would be available. Rumors and speculation have swirled since the launch of the iPhone 4, but as of right now there is still no such device available--at least to the general public.

Adobe Flash. I have gone back and forth personally on this issue. On the one hand, as an iPhone and iPad user, I don't often encounter scenarios where the lack of Adobe Flash support is an issue. Most of the Flash-based content on the Web is ads that I don't want to see anyway. However, I keep coming back to the basic concept of user choice. It might affect performance and battery life and lead to an abysmal smartphone or tablet experience, but Apple can still make Adobe Flash an option and leave that decision to me.

Death of XServer. Outside of the Apple loyalist fanbase, the OS X-based XServer may not have been very well-known, but for those who rely on it, it still fills a need. On the upside, Apple is offering alternative hardware platforms capable of filling the OS X server role, but they are not rack mountable as the XServer was--making them much less data center friendly.

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